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Carved in Stone: The Artistry of Early New England Gravestones
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Carved in Stone: The Artistry of Early New England Gravestones

by Thomas E. Gilson
 

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Gravestones are colonial America’s earliest sculpture and they provide a unique physical link to the European people who settled here. Carved in Stone book is an elegant collection of over 80 fine duotone photographs, each a personal meditation on an old stone carving, and on New England’s past, where these stones tell stories about death at sea, epidemics

Overview

Gravestones are colonial America’s earliest sculpture and they provide a unique physical link to the European people who settled here. Carved in Stone book is an elegant collection of over 80 fine duotone photographs, each a personal meditation on an old stone carving, and on New England’s past, where these stones tell stories about death at sea, epidemics such as small pox, the loss of children, and a grim view of the afterlife. The essay is a graceful narrative that explores a long personal involvement with the stones and their placement in New England landscape, and attempts to trace the curious and imperfectly documented story of carvers. Brief quotes from early New England writers accompany the images, and captions provide basic information about each stone. These meditative portraits present an intimate view of figures from New England graveyards and will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in early Americana and fine art photography.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In a culture that shunned image making as idolatry, the emergence of gravestone art in 17th-century Puritan communities marked a shift, one in which the spiritual world could be conveyed with dignity and grace as well as represent the deceased's deeply held religious faith. The Gilson brothers—photographer Thomas and writer William—have captured the essence of these somber, touching memorials. William writes of his bourgeoning interest in gravestones and the immediacy of his reactions to them as well the historical background of the markers themselves and of the little-known sculptors who carved their images. Thomas's excellent photographs are interspersed with writings from the period that give voice and personality to the small band of faithful who struggled and sometimes failed to survive. Cold, hunger, disease, and infant mortality are all recorded in the inscribed memorials under the carvings of angels, winged skulls, fanciful scrolls, and leaf forms carved into the hard stone of the land. VERDICT An excellent look at a fascinating subject and a fine introduction to the field. Readers drawn to this topic would do well to consider a much more extensive study, Graven Images, by Allan I. Ludwig.—Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York
From the Publisher

“These solid chunks of the past are strange and wonderful, irresistible and repellent, sign posts to our past as well as our future. There's never a crowd. Above ground that is. If a case can be made for visiting these lonely, eerie, open air exhibits, two brothers, Thomas and William Gilson, have made it in their new book.”—David Holahan, Hartford Courant

“Thomas Gilson’s photographs are beautiful, haunting, revelatory at times frightening.”—Alan Bisbort, Waterbury Republican-American

“Carved in Stone...is an eerie book, one that quietly works on you.” —Jan Gardener, Boston Globe

“The Gilson brothers—photographer Thomas and writer William—have captured the essence of these somber, touching memorials. … An excellent look at a fascinating subject and a fine introduction to the field.” —Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Library Journal

“One of the most interesting books of photography, and history, published in recent years….” —Chris Rowley, Shawangunk Journal

“Pine Bush photographer Thomas E. Gilson documented early American gravestones for years before learning that his brother William, a writer and poet, had a parallel obsession. Their collaboration pairs more than 80 spare, striking black-and-white photos with a personal and searching essay on the allure of these idiosyncratic, oddly eloquent carvings. ine Bush photographer Thomas E. Gilson documented early American gravestones for years before learning that his brother William, a writer and poet, had a parallel obsession. Their collaboration pairs more than 80 spare, striking black-and-white photos with a personal and searching essay on the allure of these idiosyncratic, oddly eloquent carvings.”—Nina Shengold, Chronogram

“If you’ve ever liked strolling through a graveyard—and as a kid I remember spending a lot of time walking the dirt lanes of the vast Pocasset Cemetery—this collection of New England’s past will fascinate.”—Tony Laroche, Providence Sunday Journal

“The artistry of these gravestones is remarkable given the Puritan aesthetic to find religious images, and art in general one supposes, inappropriate.” —Christopher Cumo, Connecticut History

“While on a rather unusual subject, this wonderful book from Wesleyan University Press is both informative and entertaining. Eighty duotone photographs by Thomas Gilson are accompanied by (text) written by his brother William. These explain the stone carvers and the various stories they are telling in their work, from wrecks at sea to epidemics, the loss of small children, and the more mundane.”—The New London Day

“…The flat images are full of a primitive power, much augmented by relevant quotations from the journals, sermons, and accounts of the period. This is a large, handsome volume, essential for anyone interested in old graves.”—Brenda Clough, ICCFA Magazine

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780819573025
Publisher:
Wesleyan University Press
Publication date:
11/01/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
138
Sales rank:
1,190,614
File size:
20 MB
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What People are Saying About This

Bob Drinkwater
“Carved in Stone is a thoughtful and thought-provoking commentary on New England gravestone art of the pre-industrial era—a welcome addition to the New England gravestone studies literature.”

Meet the Author

THOMAS E. GILSON, author of The New England Farm, lives in Pine Bush, New York. WILLIAM GILSON lives in England and his writings appear in numerous journals. The Gilson brothers were born and raised in Connecticut.

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